UNITED NATIONS -- President Bush announced yesterday that he planned to tighten sanctions against the military government in Myanmar and deny visas to "those responsible for egregious human-rights violations."
In a speech at the United Nations, Bush focused on human rights, outlining new U.S. efforts to force the military rulers to accede to the demands of the democracy movement in the Southeast Asian nation once known as Burma.
Calling on the United Nations to honor its human-rights charter, Bush turned a spotlight on efforts to overcome dictatorships in Cuba, Zimbabwe and Sudan. He urged the organization to help control the spread of deadly diseases such as malaria; invest in education, particularly for women and girls; and to include poor countries in the global economy "with partnership, not paternalism."
He urged the world body to reform its Human Rights Council, which in the past has had its chairmanship held by Libya and other dictatorships, and said that the United States was open to an overhaul of the U.N. Security Council. The council is made up of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. Bush said he thought Japan was "well qualified" for membership.
The president began a three-day visit to New York on Monday for the meeting of the General Assembly. He met privately with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The General Assembly speech yesterday veered away from the themes of terrorism and war that were the foundation of Bush's first speeches at the United Nations. Instead, he turned to elements of foreign policy that carry less of an edge while still encouraging the spread of democracy and the fight against tyranny.
Bush looked ahead to a Cuba no longer ruled by Fidel Castro, the ailing 81-year-old leader of the communist-run government.
"In Cuba, the long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end," Bush said. "The Cuban people are ready for their freedom."
Cuba's foreign minister walked out of the gathering in protest of Bush's speech.
James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.